Reverend Vanessa Appleton is the Chaplain at Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice. Here, she talks about how she has been providing spiritual support to patients, families, carers and staff across Berkshire throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vanessa is part of the Family Support Team at Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice, who support people from diagnosis onwards, during life-limiting conditions, and also offer bereavement support after someone has died.
Helping people flourish
“People tend to think that chaplaincy is just about religion, but it’s also about ensuring that people are flourishing on a daily basis when receiving palliative care. It’s finding out what brings people great joy and happiness and thinking of ways to bring this to them so they are enjoying life as much as is possible.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been very hard with visitor restrictions, so we’ve been helping patients to connect to family members using IT. I’ve also been providing telephone support to patients and their relatives in the community who have found isolation extremely hard.
“We have lovely volunteers who have been knitting prayer blankets and I’ll deliver them in the community and that brings a lot of comfort.
“We recently had one patient who had nobody in his life here in the UK and on his birthday our volunteers sent him cards, presents and cakes. He said he’d never had so many presents in all of his life and felt incredibly loved and part of the family.
Bereavement support in unprecedented times
“Anxiety levels have understandably rocketed during the pandemic and for some people not being able to have the funeral they want for a loved one has brought a huge amount of distress. It’s part of the grieving process and if you take that away there’s a big hole left.
“The post-bereavement support we have to give now is even more complex and we’re trying to provide the support necessary according to these unprecedented changes we’re experiencing.
Offering support to staff
“I’m continuing to offer support to staff and demand for this has definitely increased. We have a sanctuary room which I have tried to make feel like home with some comfy chairs and cushions, chocolates and fresh flowers.
“I am incredibly proud of everybody here, they’ve worked so hard and it’s such a privilege to be amongst such professional, caring, compassionate people.”
Sue Ryder Chaplain West Berkshire